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City refuses to tell News10NBC how much it paid in police abuse settlement

September 07, 2018 11:20 AM

The City of Rochester has yet to show News10NBC the video of alleged police brutality involving two police officers. And now, it refuses to tell us how much it paid to settle another brutality case. 

Experts from the New York State Committee on Open Governments told News10NBC the public should know how much the city is paying out.

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But when News10NBC told them what the city told us, they didn't get it. 

In July of 2016, Ricky Bryant was riding his bike at night. As security video shows, a handful of Rochester police officers swarmed Bryant and took him to the ground. 

Bryant was wrongfully arrested and injured. In January, without public notice, the city paid Bryant a settlement and he dropped his lawsuit. 

We asked the city's lawyer, how much did the city pay Bryant? 

The city's Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin replied in an email, "In order to protect the interests of our taxpayers, we do not disclose the terms of our settlements."

On Thursday, News10NBC asked the mayor's spokesman to explain. 

James Smith wrote,"Taxpayers ultimately pay for these settlements...(so non-disclosure) is to protect them." 

"I don't quite understand because, after all, the terms of the settlement represent an expenditure, an outlay of taxpayer money," said Robert Freeman from the New York State Committee on Open Governments.

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "So as you understand tradition and law in New York State, this kind of money should be shared with the public?" 

Robert Freeman, NYS Committee on Open Governments: "Yes, exactly." 

The city might refuse to give us the information we've asked for, but it did give the information to the Center for Governmental Research when it did a report on police action in the city. 

News10NBC went downtown to talk to the author. 

Erika Rosenberg is a principal researcher at CGR. 

In her 2017 report for cases of excessive use of force and violations of rights by Rochester Police, it says the city paid out more than $909,000 in 2015-16 and and more than $392,000 in 2016-17. 

Brean: "What do those numbers tell you?" 

Erika Rosenberg, principal researcher at CGR: "Well I think they tell us the city is having to spend some money on settling these cases where the police have been accused of misconduct." 

The CGR report only contains two years of payouts because that's all the city would give them. 

Brean: "You asked for more than just two years though?" 

Rosenberg: "We did, yes."

Brean: "And they could not get you that information?" 

Rosenberg: "That's what we were told, is that they didn't have it or that it would be cumbersome to put together." 

After our story was broadcast, News10NBC received the following updated statement from the mayor's spokesman: 

"Because of the effect announcing settlement terms would have on unrelated pending and future claims against the city, the Law Department is of the view that it is in the taxpayers' best interest not to publicly disclose the terms of any particular settlement." 

Click here to look at specific payouts in police excessive force and wrongful arrest cases from 2015-16, and here for cases from 2016-17. 

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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